Perspective Warp is a new feature in Adobe Photoshop CC. While I love the feature, I must object to the name, which is far too bland for something that can take reality and turn it on its head.
Past versions of Photoshop have enabled you, for example, to straighten the sides of an object (see "Before Perspective Warp" later in this article). But no previous tool has given you the ability to virtually walk around an object in your photo, changing the angle of your camera long after you've put the lens cap back on. Once you're familiar with the feature, I think you'll agree that Reality Warp is a more apt description.
Perspective Warp lets you define the perspective of an object by sketching planes, which automatically spring to join together at their edges. Once the planes are in place, you can then manipulate the object so you can view it from a range of different angles, as if you were walking around it with your camera. You can also tell Photoshop to straighten grid sides automatically to make them conform to true horizontal and vertical axes.
Video 1 explains how to draw the grid, showing the best way to use the gridlines to match the perspective of the photographed object. It also shows you how to manipulate the object to change its viewing angle.
Video 1. See how you can adjust the perspective of a simple object using Perspective Warp.
Video 2 demonstrates a real-world example: montaging a building into a street scene. Not only are the two photos taken from very different angles, but they're shot by different photographers in different parts of the world, and the photographers had no plans of combining their images — in fact, they didn't even know each other.
While normally this would be a tricky, complex job, Perspective Warp makes light work of it, enabling you to adjust the front and sides of the building so that they match the background.
Video 2. See how you can adjust the perspective of a complex object and composite it into another complex image.
Tip: For more control, turn your layer into a Smart Object before you apply Perspective Warp to it. This will enable you to adjust the angles at a later point, picking up from where you left off.
Previous versions of Photoshop offered a range of other distortion methods, but none of them could match the magic of Perspective Warp when it comes to this sort of task. The Vanishing Point filter, for instance, can clone and patch in perspective — but you can't use it to distort a whole layer to fit the scene.
Here's how these other tools stack up when given the same task:
You might try using Free Transform, which would — with some persuasion — let you adjust one wall of the building so that it more or less matched the building next to it. But the other side would now be grossly distorted, and it would be hard to fix without breaking the building into multiple faces. The problem is that joining them back together seamlessly can be difficult (see Figure 1).
Puppet Warp is another method for reconfiguring a complex object, but while it's ideal for organic shapes such as animals and body parts, the fluidity that makes it work in those circumstances means it's inappropriate when working with hard, straight lines (see Figure 2).
Image Warp, the envelope distortion mode of Free Transform, allows objects to be distorted using Bézier curves and eight control points. Again, though, it's more suited to working with curves than with straight lines; there's no way to use it to create a sharp corner (see Figure 3).
The Liquify filter permits just about any sort of distortion imaginable. And, with a lot of patience, it might be possible to achieve the results you want with this tool. But it's painstaking work, with a tendency to produce bulges and lumps, which is not what you want in this case (see Figure 4).
The strength of Perspective Warp lies in its ability to manipulate multiple faces of an object at the same time. For a job like this, there's really no suitable alternative.
Antique chest: Kraig Donald; Kentucky building: Paul Sableman; London street: Steve Cadman. All images used under Creative Commons license.
Steve Caplin is a graphic artist specializing in photomontage illustrations that have appeared in many newspapers, magazines, and advertisements. Steve plays the piano fairly well, the accordion reasonably well, and the guitar badly. You can see his portfolio at stevecaplin.com.